Self Publishing: Fact or Non-Fiction?

A year and a half ago I embarked on my first self-publishing experience when I published my first novel, Counting from Zero.  I had written several other books before, but they were technical, non-fiction books, and I used conventional publishers who handled so many aspects of the book.

Self-publishing was a revelation for me, and I found that I relished the speed, control, and flexibility it gave me.  I have had so many wonderful experiences after publishing the book; now I can hardly imagine that I once thought that perhaps it would never be published!

I am in the homestretch of a new self-publishing experience, which has also been a revelation.  This time, I am about to self-publish my first non-fiction, technical book title!  Stay tuned for an announcement shortly, perhaps on Monday when I am speaking at an industry conference… perhaps.  I won’t talk about the book or the topic today, but I do want to share my experiences, and how it has been similar or different for non-fiction vs fiction.

So firstly, why did I choose to self-publish rather than go back to one of the publishers I had worked with in the past?  The same reasons as for my novel, which are:

  1. Speed:  My co-author and I finished editing and writing the book just this week.  Next week we will have a box of books in hand and a paperback and Kindle edition for sale on Amazon.  It just doesn’t get any better than this, especially when your goal is to publish the first book on a given topic.
  2. Control: Publishers often influence the content of a technical book.  They will suggest adding chapters, or including other points of view.  Often this is useful, but in this case, for the first time, this to-be-published book contains exactly what I want, and says it exactly as I want to say it.  To paraphrase MasterCard, this is priceless!  And, I can control pricing.  My previous books have been incredibly expensive – this book will be incredibly cheap.
  3. Flexibility: Timing is everything in technical book publishing.  And the ability to provide timely content at the right time is critical.  This book will be up-to-the-minute accurate.  In addition, we plan to do frequent new editions to track the fast-moving field.  I have done multiple editions of some of my previous books, but usually at 2-3 year intervals.  This time, we plan to do new editions in 3-4 month intervals!  I know it sounds crazy, and it may turn out to be so, but the point is we can try out this new model, where we put out a book using a software release model, rather than a book edition model.

So, what are the downsides of this do-it-yourself model?  Mainly just the work involved!  Laying out my fiction book was trivial, but doing the same for my non-fiction book was extremely involved.  I had to integrate figures, captions, tables of contents, lists of figures, etc.  My publisher provided all these things in the past, but now it was all down to me and and my co-author.

I’m happy to say we have been successful, and initial feedback from our reviewers is very positive.  I can hardly wait for Monday!    In my mind, there is no doubt this book will be successful, and it will help the industry and fellow professionals learn about new opportunities.

I guess it is obvious that this self-publishing fad is likely to stay, even for technical non-fiction books.

If any of you have had self-publishing experience with a technical book, I’d love to hear your experiences.  I’ll keep sharing the lessons I’m learning every day in this incredible experience.

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